Increasingly customers wish to interact with businesses in the same way they do with their friends and family, on messaging apps such as SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or the up and coming RCS, and using rich interaction formats such as video. Correspondingly, a new category of vendors has blossomed to help companies incorporate voice, video and messaging into their communications through developer-friendly APIs and tools. Industry analysts and others recognize this space as cPaaS, short for communications platform-as-service.
The most prevalent use case has been the use of SMS and voice for 2-factor authentication, i.e. to establish the validity of contact numbers provided by customers or to authenticate them when they sign into mobile or web applications. SMS is also widely adopted to keep customers informed about account activity, transaction alerts, payment reminders and appointment notifications. With cPaaS, enterprise IT developers can easily embed SMS and voice communications into existing business processes or customer interactions, without having to deal with multiple intermediaries, buying expensive equipment or learning proprietary languages and technologies.
While developers love the simplicity of web-standard APIs, and customers appreciate timely communication, whether cPaaS goes far enough to enable truly breakthrough customer experiences needs careful deliberation.
Customers today expect the same slick experiences provided by digital natives like Uber and Airbnb from banks, retailers, utilities and other businesses they deal with. Let’s briefly consider a couple of examples of what these slick experiences might look like.
As consumers, we are quite used to receiving notifications about the status of our orders once we make a purchase from an online retailer. However, any change (such as rescheduling the delivery to a different address or date, or requesting the parcel to be dropped off with a neighbour) requires the consumer to log into a mobile or web app or speak to an agent. This is where the customer experience breaks down. Allowing the consumer to respond in natural language to the notification and enabling them to make changes can significantly reduce friction and elevate CX.
By way of another example, let’s consider a scenario where a customer has scheduled a direct debit with their bank for recurring payments such as for mortgages or rents. If the account balance is insufficient in a particular month, informing the customer and asking them to log into net banking is okay, but allowing the customer to reschedule the direct debit by interacting with a bot on the same channel is what will enable a truly differentiated experience.
Clearly, it’s not sufficient to just keep customers informed; it’s about opening up multi-step interactions and orchestrating those interactions across multiple backend systems to automate fulfilment of customer requests.
A customer journey automation platform does exactly that; it not only offers all the benefits of cPaaS but also allows new experiences to be created and launched quickly and easily.
So what are some of the key ingredients of such a platform?
1. Configurability of customer interactions on multiple channels
cPaaS vendors do a good job opening up access to multiple channels, but their offering is mostly limited to communication APIs, which necessitates a programming-intensive approach, naturally limiting how quickly new journeys can be rolled out. What’s needed is a “configure, not code” approach for creating customer journeys that leverage the best of what each channel has to offer – interaction buttons on push notifications, carousel controls in Facebook Messenger or Suggested Actions in RCS.
2. Plug-and-play integration into backend systems
Customer journeys typically involve looking up information (e.g. account status, balance or customer tier), updating data (e.g. address) or invoking an action (e.g. new product or service activation) across disparate backend systems. They also involve using third party services such as credit check and address verification. It should be possible to configure these integrations, publish them as reusable components and use them across multiple customer journeys, across a wide variety of interfaces exposed by existing systems.
3. Drag-and-drop customer journey development
Within any medium to large sized business, there are dozens of customer journeys, across departments and lifecycle stages, waiting to be revamped and automated. Handling each journey as an application silo is simply not scalable. Businesses need to be able to rapidly automate and iterate multiple journeys using a low-code toolset on a single unified platform. This level of agility will become a prerequisite for surviving in today’s highly competitive markets.
4. Scalable Infrastructure and Data Security
A high-performance runtime engine, elastic scaling, compliance with GDPR and other regulatory requirements, data security, secure integration options, rich reporting and dashboards are some of the key requirements that a customer journey automation platform will need to address.
5. Complementary services
The platform’s capabilities need to be augmented with a robust suite of services including implementation services, training, consultation, service level management and dedicated account management – all designed to ensure businesses fully realize the value of their investments in the platform and transform their CX.
We have designed and developed IMIconnect to help businesses rapidly automate customer communications, simple interactions and complex journeys. The platform is today powering millions of customer interactions for leading businesses across banking, telecom, utilities, logistics and other sectors. If you would like to schedule a demo or request a 30-day trial, please get in touch.